Making Sense of Your Cartridge Options

When it comes to enabling print in your office, choosing a printer is only part of the process. Procuring print supplies like ink and toner is another key aspect of making print possible. This insight piece will discuss the different types of marking supplies in the market, as well as pros and cons of each.

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplies

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplies are made by the manufacturer of the compatible printer or multifunction printer (MFP). This includes toner and/or ink from companies like Canon, Epson, HP, and Ricoh. Also known as “genuine” supplies, they are optimized for compatible print devices.

Figure 1: Example of OEM supply (Canon toner) sold online


Pros of OEM supplies

OEM supplies tend to deliver the highest level of print quality and reliability. The manufacturer is most familiar with the inner workings of its print devices, allowing it to create the best supplies possible. It’s less likely that these products will malfunction, causing damage to the printer or MFP. Another benefit is there is virtually no question these supplies are legal.

Cons of OEM supplies

Generally speaking, OEM supplies are more expensive than third-party products. To some extent, this reflects the quality of the product. That said, OEMs are making more of an effort to offer customers low-cost supplies through contractual programs that lock in a customer for a period of time. In addition, office equipment dealers often have the flexibility to set their own prices.

Remanufactured supplies

Remanufactured supplies are repurposed OEM cartridges. After an OEM cartridge has been used, the remanufacturer checks the cartridge for usability, repairs it (if need be), refills it with printing material, and tests the product to ensure it operates correctly inside the device.

Figure 2: Example of remanufactured supply (HP-compatible toner) sold online

Pros of remanufactured supplies

Remanufactured supplies tend to cost less than OEM cartridges. They are also considered an environmentally friendly option, as they give new life to a cartridge that might otherwise be discarded/sent to a landfill. Nevertheless, increasingly OEMs are making an effort to collect their cartridges and recycle them (e.g. through the Close the Loop program).

Cons of remanufactured supplies

Remanufactured supplies may have a lower print quality compared to OEM products. There is no guarantee they will function as well as the OEM version, though there are certainly a range of quality levels to be found. It may also be riskier to use a remanufactured cartridge from a legality standpoint. The product may violate certain OEM patents, copyrights, and/or trademarks.

Newly made compatible (NMC)/clone cartridges

Newly made compatible (NMC) cartridges, also known as clones, are ink and toner cartridges made from scratch by a third-party. They differ from remanufactured cartridges in that that they do not use an empty cartridge from an OEM. In some cases they are presented as third-party, while in other cases they are counterfeit products.

Figure 3: Example of NMC supply (Brother-compatible toner) sold online

Pros of NMC supplies

NMC cartridges tend to be the least expensive supply option in the market. They are often cheaply made, allowing the manufacturer and/or reseller to sell them at a very low price.

Cons of NMC supplies

NMC cartridges have the greatest likelihood of delivering poor print quality. While the cartridge may be brand new, the quality of components and raw material used can vary greater from those used by the OEM. They are also most likely to violate intellectual property rights, as well as go directly to a landfill (due to poor print quality and/or hard-to-find replacement parts).

3 takeaways

  • Different types of print supplies in the market have different pros and cons.
  • OEM supplies tend to have the greatest level of print quality and reliability.
  • A wide range of third-party supplies exists, but generally speaking they are less expensive and of lower-quality compared to OEM products.